Recently, a petition has been circulating in support of Alexander Aan, an atheist who is currently on trial in Indonesia for having spoken out in favor of atheism and against Islam. A Facebook page has also cropped up. Maryam Namazie has been covering the case from the beginning and has posted an interview with Aan. Additionally, Atheist Alliance International is collecting donations for his legal fund.

As I've pointed out before, Westerners who lack a Muslim background don't face as much in the way of credible threats from Islamic violence as those who live in Muslim-dominated countries and/or have their origins somehow tangled up in Islam. Nowhere is this more evident than in case of both Indonesia, Aan's country, and Malaysia, its only Muslim majority neighbor.

Both of these Southeast Asian countries, because they do not require tourists to dress or act according to Islamic standards, have gained a reputation for being "progressive" Muslim countries. Malaysia's own tourism site promotes the idea that Malaysian Muslims live in harmony with their non-Muslim neighbors. Travel blogs detail how lovely and tolerant Indonesia seems to tourists.

Sadly, this Western tourists' version of the countries doesn't exist for those who actually live there. Malaysia has laws against apostasy and apostates can face criminal charges and punitive measures for renouncing Islam. Even non-Malaysian people with Muslim backgrounds are not safe there. Indonesia is not much different, both in terms of mob violence and, as is also shown by Aan's case, Sharia.

Alexander Aan is one person, but his case highlights exactly what is wrong with the Muslim world's treatment of its own citizens. Supporting him will mean more than helping a man who has committed no real crime — it will show a lack of tolerance for religiously-based, unjust laws.

Heina Dadabhoy

Heina Dadabhoy

Heina Dadabhoy [hee-na dad-uh-boy] spent her childhood as a practicing Muslim who never in her right mind would have believed that she would grow up to be an atheist feminist secular humanist, or, in other words, a Skepchick. She has been an active participant in atheist organizations and events in and around Orange County, CA since 2007. She is currently writing A Skeptic's Guide to Islam. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

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9 Comments

  1. Profile photo of kagerato
    April 27, 2012 at 2:36 pm —

    I sent this to the authorities listed:
     
    Alexander Aan has evidently been arrested, charged, and tried for a serious of mundane and essentially harmless statements. The claims against him, which include questioning the existence of God and the use of satire and ridicule, should not be crimes.
     
    The basis of his prosecution appears to be community outrage and false assertions of inciting hatred. However, the effect of the laws in practice here is the criminalization of atheism. This is in clear conflict with any freedom of religion, which must include the capacity to have no religion.
     
    Alex's voice here was used merely to express an opinion, which everyone ought to have the right to do in a free society. He did not endanger anyone, nor force anyone to listen to him. If some are offended by his statements, that is their view, but they should not be able to use the force of government to impose it on everyone else.
     
    For the sake of justice, please cease all legal actions against Alexander Aan. Release him and compensate him for his lost time and freedom.
     
    Further, the laws of Indonesia should be changed to provide and promote full freedom of expression, including that of unpopular views where it is most necessary.

  2. Profile photo of Grand Lunar
    April 27, 2012 at 11:53 pm —

    One fear of mine is the possibility that one day, such laws, and cases such as this, may be enacted in the US by the Christian right, given time.
     
     

  3. Profile photo of criticaldragon1177
    April 28, 2012 at 12:32 am —

    Heina,
     
    Doesn't sound like they have a lot of confidence in their beliefs if they think they have to punish someone for rejecting them.

  4. Profile photo of criticaldragon1177
    April 28, 2012 at 12:37 am —

    Anyway in the meantime, how much do you guys want to bet that anti Muslim bigots will blow this out of propurtion and claim this is just another example of the type of society that all "true Muslims" want to live in, and if we don't deport them all we're going to have our freedom taken away?

  5. Profile photo of criticaldragon1177
    April 28, 2012 at 12:39 am —

    Let's not make lite of this through.  I don't want Alexander Aan or anyone for that matter to be punished for simply critizing something, including Islam, or any religion for that matter.   What can we do to help him?

  6. Profile photo of Carl Fink
    April 28, 2012 at 11:24 pm —

    Have you looked at the case of Hamza Kashgari, who faces execution for apostasy in Saudi Arabia? Extradited to Saudi (apparently illegally even by local law) from Malaysia.

  7. Profile photo of Raf
    May 1, 2012 at 3:25 am —

    Hi Heina. I’m Raf, a facebook friend of Alex Aan. I know him since 2008. He’s an atheist. But our government force him to come back to islam. He deal with it. You know, we’re living in Indonesia, the biggest islamic country with over fanaticism on it’s people. Thanks for your article. By the way, if you can translate this article: http://avenk27.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/pembelaan-terhadap-alexander-aan/ into english, you’ll learn how hard to live in Indonesia. we’re dying.

    • Profile photo of Heina Dadabhoy
      May 1, 2012 at 4:43 am —

      Thanks for the comment. I am not fluent in any language but English, sadly, but appreciate any information that comes my way on the plight of ex-Muslims worldwide.

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